Musings on Immigration

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USCIS Knows What Its Problems Are. Will It Now Fix Them?


Recently, the USCIS conducted a survey of more than 5,000 “stakeholders” (folks who care about and participate in the U.S. immigration system in some way). These stakeholders were asked to identify the key areas of concern for them. The USCIS has now released its initial report from this survey, identifying the areas of concern most frequently raised by stakeholders. The report is enlightening.

This initial report lists the following areas of concern, in order, that USCIS will address:

  • National Customer Service Center
  • Nonimmigrant H-1B (specialty occupations)
  • Naturalization
  • Employment-Based Adjustment of Status
  • Family-Based Adjustment of Status
  • Employment-Based Immigrants Preference Categories 1, 2 (priority workers, professionals and holders of advanced degrees) and 3 (skilled workers and professionals)
  • Refugee and Asylum Adjustment of Status
  • Form I-601 (Application for Waiver of Ground of Inadmissibility)
  • General Humanitarian Programs
  • Employment Authorization and Travel Documents

The USCIS has committed to:

convene working groups to review each of the issue areas. Leaders from across USCIS will join analysts, adjudicators and customer service representatives in examining policy and instructional documents that guide our work. USCIS will follow the federal rulemaking process whenever appropriate, and once approved, new policies will be available electronically.

While it is all well and good to internally review and examine policies and procedures, isn’t that the source of the problems with these listed areas of concern? After all the biggest problem identified by stakeholders is the Customer Service it offers!! I challenge the USCIS to involve stakeholders in these working groups so that not only are real concerns voiced, but solutions can be discussed in an open forum, generating more and better ideas than have been coming out of USCIS since its formation. Making stakeholders and customers wait to comment on “”possible” internally generated changes until “potential” federal regulations are published (comments which are frequently ignored by USCIS in the rulemaking process) is more of the same old way of doing business.

Director Mayorkas should follow the promise President Obama made shortly after he entered office to make the internal decision making process more open and transparent. Enough of internal working groups. Let’s really fix these problems. Together.

Senator Schumer, You are Wrong!

Last Week Congress passed its first major piece of immigration legislation in several years. The Border Security Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2010 (H.R. 5875)

Besides the fact that the bill itself is a joke–passed without debate, study or analysis as to its effectiveness, there are two major problems–Funding of the $600 Million Dollars Bill, and the “Real” purpose of the bill.

First the “real” purpose of the bill–Schumer and other Democrats have barked loudly that the bill is intended to shut the mouths of border crazies who refuse to discuss any change to our nightmarish national immigration policies until America is safely tucked inside a sealed bubble, invulnerable from entry by anyway but the purest foreign national. Senator Sessions from the border state of Alabama, who can only be described as absolutely crazed on the issue of immigration, responded to this strategy:

Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York was hopeful that the bill would bring Republicans back to the bargaining table. But one key GOP Senator, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, threw cold water on those hopes, calling the bill “more like an effort to receive positive press” for Democrats rather than a genuine attempt to stop illegal immigration.

“Make no mistake: while this small measure can have some value, if it is not followed by strong, sustained action; it is yet another gesture without consequence,” Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement issued Thursday.

“The ‘Masters of the Universe’ in Washington are always proposing new plans to deal with the massive illegality at the border,” said Sessions. Last week, Sessions and Arizona Sen. John McCain, another key Republican, said the $600 million bill was only the first step in toughening the border.

So much for Republicans now happily agreeing to Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Just in case Senator Schumer (and President Obama) did not get the message from Senator Sessions, let me make it perfectly clear: Republicans will NOT support any type of immigration reform that recognizes the reality we are currently in. Period. President Obama, Senator Schumer–If you cannot do it without Republicans, you are not going to do it. My suggestion is that you get the Democrats to fulfill the campaign promise of immigration reform, or kiss the Latino vote goodbye. Clearly, the Republicans do not care about their future as a party of inclusion, do the Democrats also not care?

Now, the Second BIG problem with this bill–It is NOT paid for! Senator Schumer said that this bill would funded on the backs of employers of foreign national employees–specifically those who have more than 50 employees, and who’s workforce is more than 50% made up of H-1B and/or L-1 workers. For those specific companies, the USCIS is now going to collect an ADDITIONAL $2,000 fee, over and above the H-1B filing fee of $2,230 and the L-1 filing fee of $820 these companies already pay to USCIS to file (but not necessarily approve) the application.

This full funding of this bill is unclear (like most bills that come out of Congress), but the funding is summarized as follows:

Rescinds from unobligated balances certain funds for: (1) U.S. Customs and Border Protection, border security fencing, infrastructure, and technology; (2) Transportation Security Administration (TSA), aviation security; (3) FEMA, administrative and regional operations; and (4) Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, periodic censuses and programs. Directs the Department of Defense (DOD) to pay in FY2010-FY2011 the full costs associated with deployment of the National Guard along the Southwest border.

So, while it is unclear how much Senator Schumer hoped to raise from his H-1B and L-1 visa stunt, perhaps a little math is in order. So far this fiscal year, the USCIS has received about 43,000 H-1B applications for new H-1B workers (of a total 85,000 that are available). That leaves 42,000 potential H-1B applicants to pay the $2,000 Schumer Fee. If every one of those cases paid the Schumer Fee, that would raise $8,000,000. That leaves only about $598,000,000 to be funded by the L-1 visa program and the other cost shifting noted above. There are not even 85,000 L-1 applications filed in an entire year by all applicants, let alone the specific applicants to which this law applies. Couple the numbers problem with the USCIS attack on the specific type of employer that Senator Schumer is targeted, and the resulting sharp decrease in usage of the H-1B and L-1 visa by those employers, and what becomes clear is that the Schumer fee cannot possibly raise more than a few million dollars. How pathetic.

So, once again, as citizens, we are left holding the debt for Congress’ effort to throw more money at the border, without a solution to our immigration crisis. Senator Schumer, you are wrong. This bill is not about border enforcement, nor is it about getting Republicans to play ball on immigration reform. This bill is about money; money to special interests who will benefit from it’s spending. But this new law is not about fixing a broken immigration system. You probably don’t want my advice, but here it is anyway. The next time you move forward on immigration legislation Senator Schumer, I suggest aiming a little higher in your aspirations and fix the system, don’t just repair a broken pipe.

New Pro Se program coming to Charlotte Immigration Court

The Charlotte immigration court plans to implement an orientation program, run by volunteer immigration attorneys, for everyone who is in immigration court for the first time and who does not already have an attorney. This program will mirror the volunteer attorney programs in the San Francisco and San Antonio immigration courts.


Each person will have an opportunity to speak with a volunteer immigration attorney for about ten minutes. The attorney will do a quick analysis of each case and provide each person with a list of documents to bring to an immigration attorney. They will also be provided with a list of immigration attorneys who have meet certain competency requirements. The program is scheduled to start sometime in October of 2010.

GOP candidate for Governor announces Arizona-style immigration bill for Florida

According to an examiner.com report, Florida’s Attorney General Bill McCollum, and a GOP gubernatorial candidate, yesterday announced a bill to be introduced in the Florida Legislature that will rival Arizona’s embattled immigration law.

This requirement of “reasonable suspicion” – legal buzz words that mean something less than “probable cause”, sets this bill apart from the Arizona law, according to McCollum. The bill also allows judges to consider a defendant’s immigration status when setting bond amounts and in allowing prosecutors to bring higher-level charges against illegal immigrants and stiffer sentences at conviction.

Also different than the Arizona law, the AG’s bill would not allow citizens to sue police agencies for failing to enforce the law – this would instead be left to the Attorney General’s office. Employing illegal immigrants would also become a violation of state criminal law, and the bill would require businesses to use the federal E-Verify program before hiring anyone. The Florida bill specifically prohibits racial profiling.

A federal judge postponed the implementation of various portions of the Arizona law in July, including a section that required officers to check an individual’s immigration status while enforcing other laws. The Department of Justice brought suit challenging the law on supremacy grounds – that the federal government has the responsibility of creating and administering immigration laws, and that the states cannot implement such laws.

McCollum’s challenger, Rick Scott, accused the Attorney General of “flip-flopping,” according to Scott’s communications director. She attributed the proposal to McCollum’s sliding poll numbers.

Immigrant-advocacy groups denounced the bill immediately. Cheryl Little, the Executive Director of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center in Miami, released a statement criticizing the bill, saying that it would add chaos and confusion to an already broken system.